Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been enjoyable reading over the holidays. Because of the holidays, I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked but if it takes a little longer, that’s all right. So far it’s been worth it.
As I’m making my way through the novel, I’ve had a few thoughts about what to write. There is, of course, the proverbial “fear of my man card being taken away” for reading this; however, it hit me the other day that those who would question my manhood for reading Little Women have probably already questioned my manhood for reading – period.
So we can move on.
One aspect of the novel that has stood out to me so far is the manner in which Marmee will occasionally teach a life lesson to one of her daughters and it seems as though it’s actually Louisa May Alcott, herself, teaching life lessons to her readers. Ordinarily, I find this type of didacticism irritating; however, Alcott makes it work by not having too much of it and keeping it to the point. And no matter how one might regard these from a literary standpoint, the life lessons are ones worth learning.
I like the characters and find the book full of charm and fun and insight; however, for me, the novel went to a higher level when I reached chapter 13 which is entitled “Castles in the Air”. In this chapter, Laurie, the boy next door, joins the March girls outdoors while they are working on reading and writing projects. As Laurie joins in the conversation, the five kids ramble about their dreams and what their perfect life would look like. These perfect lives become their “castles in the air”:
“We’re an ambitious set, aren’t we? Every one of us, but Beth, wants to be rich and famous, and gorgeous in every respect. I do wonder if any of us will ever get our wishes,” said Laurie, chewing grass, like a meditative calf.
Alcott puts together such a realistic conversation between the teenagers with nothing contrived or manufactured. They argue a little but what caught my attention is that they truly listen to each other. They discuss what sacrifices they might need to make for their dreams and those circumstances for which they might have to sacrifice their dreams. It’s a chapter that I would want my kids to read (two of my daughters have read it). And the decision Laurie makes at the end? Very moving.
I at least plan for one more post when I finish the novel but, who knows, there could be another chapter like this one that I have to post about before the end.
Hamlette over at The Edge of the Precipice has excellent posts about each chapter of Little Women from her Read-A-Long last year. Here’s her take on “Castles in the Air”.